I was having a conversation with a good friend over text yesterday, and as I tend to sometimes overshare with friends, I got to telling her how I have an underlying anxiety constantly that people are not going to like me. And that’s silly, really. Because not everyone IS going to like you, and that’s normal, and healthy. If everyone liked you, you wouldn’t know how to improve yourself if people do point out what they dislike about you. Life is a learning experience, and while you don’t have to change, we do learn from each other about acceptance and respect – which is something that is worth changing for.
Now, to clarify, “dislike” is not interchangeable with “disrespect”. Respect is something everyone deserves. You don’t deserve to have everyone automatically be your best friend.
These are concepts I have struggled with most of my life. And while I was thinking about this last night in a gastritis-induced anxiety cloud, one of my very good friends – you may know her as Annabelle from the Belle Jar Blog – posted an article that completely spoke to how I was feeling about my need to be liked. The article, “She Who Dies With the Most Likes Wins?”, addresses why so many women feel the need to be liked by everyone. And the results of why they feel this way is really surprising.
Women grow up in a society that already views them as “less-than”. We’re not as good as men. We don’t deserve to be heard. We’re hysterical. We aren’t as strong and rational. We’re meant to be meek and to listen to men who “know better” about what’s good for us. And so we grow up craving acceptance, especially in a world that likes to pit us against each other. Oh, the TV shows are full of this female fighting. “Frenemies”, they call it.
Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want frenemies. I want friends. And I don’t think being confident in my abilities and talents means that I’m a bitch who should be written off – but society thinks that.
I crave to be accepted in society because for a long time, I wasn’t. I was bullied as a child. I was made fun of for my appearance, and I was made to feel small and worthless. I was told no one would ever like me. So, when people respond to my natural friendliness as an adult, I feel vindicated. Like that 11-year-old girl inside me, that hurt, beaten-down little girl, is finally being told that she’s worth something. I have self-confidence issues and people liking and responding to me positively means that I must be worth something, right?
But the article addresses that, too. Because it’s not about other people telling us we’re worth something. It’s about seeing our own self-worth. I mention that I have moments of self-doubt. As a caregiver. As a sister. As a daughter. As a friend. I am acutely aware that I make mistakes and they bother me long after I’ve been forgiven by the person I’ve intentionally, or unintentionally, hurt. I remember every slight that’s ever been made to me, and I try to get past it, but it only fuels my anxiety that I must “deserve it”.
What I am learning, though, as a feminist and simply as a woman, is that society is wrong. I’m not worthless because I was born a female. I’m not a ruthless feminist because I stand up for women’s rights – yet another way that society wants to make you think I’m not worth it. I’m full of self-worth, full of talent, and full of love. I really don’t need everyone to like me, because what matters is that I like myself.
That’s easy for me to say, but it’s not as easy in practice. I still crave acceptance. I still want to be liked, because it does make me feel like I’m worth something.
So I’m working on remembering my own self-worth. My friends are my friends because they see that worthiness inside me. They see that I’m a person who is loving, caring, friendly, charming, talented. It’s why I’m friends with them. So why can’t I see that it’s why they’re friends with me?
I think we need to stop trying to be popular and well-liked in order to prove our worth. I think that looking at what we feel are our “unlikeable” traits, figuring out why we feel that way, and then working on improvement – even if improvement is to bolster our confidence in ourselves – is the way to go instead. Remembering that no one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes and says stupid things sometimes, but yet everyone is still worth something is the new way to go about life and social interactions.
I’m not going to like the whole world, so why should they like me? They don’t have to like me. They don’t have to agree with me. They just have to respect me. And as a teased, broken-down 11-year-old, I realize that’s what I wanted all along. Just to be respected.
So, hi. I’m L. And you don’t have to like me right away. But if you give me a chance, I’ll show you just why you should like me – because I’m someone who’s worthy of being liked for who I am.